I’ve had this thought swirling around in the back alley of my mind and for a long time I was too busy and too scared to get out and explore it. I felt I wouldn’t like what I found and that I would only be left with a bigger mess to sort through. As the saying goes, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. This evasive maneuver was ineffective, however, and the resulting tension manifested in stress dreams of malfunctioning toilets and a facial twitch (being a human is weird). In a bid to improve my sleep and have a less distracting face, I reluctantly dug a little deeper, fully expecting to be disappointed – and I was. Twice.
With this hiatus from work, I’ve been able to put time toward more fulfilling ventures like writing (the introspection is actually more helpful, but the writing makes it happen) and design projects. In addition, long forgotten odd jobs are being completed around the apartment, and errands are getting done in a (mostly) timely manner. Throw in some personal hangout time here at Royal Jubilee and I felt I had established a fine balance of productivity and self-care. I was still busy, sure, but it was a different busy, a more noble busy, I felt. But then, the other day, there was a pause. I forget what happened or didn’t happen (something about my brain not performing as hoped), but progress stopped as my brain ground to a halt. And this pissed me off. I wanted to get back on the productivity train, working on things and getting shit done. Instead, I waited for my brain’s equivalent of Windows ’95 to defrag and thought about why this upset me so much.
Like everyone else, keeping busy allows me to avoid considering uncomfortable truths about myself. Busyness and productivity have become my gauge for how far I’ve come. The more things I produce, the closer I am to being fully recovered and the further I am from being brain damaged. As long as I am accomplishing things and getting visible results, I am still on an upward trajectory. As I described in the previous post, however, there is a mental block that I hit with ominous regularity. This is the block that needed defragging the other day. And as I sat, stalled in the middle of a project once again, I found myself considering the ugly notion that maybe this block was the end of the line. Maybe I’m not on an upward trajectory anymore. Maybe this is the plateau they talk about in books. Maybe this is as good as it gets for me.
And I found that pretty fucking disappointing. I found life pretty fucking disappointing. If the rest of my life is going to be just slight variations of this struggle, it sounds like it’ll be hell. It’s like Sisyphus in Greek mythology who was cursed with forever rolling a boulder uphill in Hades, a rather apt description of living with a head injury. I’m trying to roll this boulder of a brain uphill, exerting my physical and cognitive energy to simply hold this position. There is no further progress to be made, just the inevitable and slow skid downhill from here on out.
That’s the uncomfortable truth I stared down. I let it percolate while I ruminated on what this meant for my bleak future. Acknowledging the shitstorm cloud instead of the silver lining for once was a surprisingly nice change of pace. In some strange way, it felt good to just be there and be disappointed, like yeah, this fucking sucks. Life had drastically oversold and underdelivered. That was the first disappointment, and I looked forward to venting and writing about it.
Then I was like, but what about neuroplasticity? The brain’s ability to rewire and change itself has been the basis for all I’ve accomplished so far. I’ve read too many books and learned far too much to truly believe that I’ve plateaued. I know that with time and persistence, neural changes are still possible and I’ve got plenty of both. Oh fucking hell, I thought, I can’t even be disappointed for very long.
And that was my second disappointment.